Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

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On my last morning in Crystal Beach, TX last month, my friends and I went out searching for seashells. It wasn’t the best day for finding shells, but it was a lovely day to just appreciate being alive. At 8:30 in the morning on a Tuesday, the beach was quiet and mostly empty. The sun was warm, and the water cool. Silty Gulf beach sand squished under my toes.

I caught sight of a middle-aged couple walking happily, hand in hand, and couldn’t resist taking a little snapshot to save the memory. They looked so happy and relaxed, just like I felt at the moment. For just a little while, we had all given ourselves permission to be carefree. It was such a great way to spend a long weekend. Can’t wait to visit again.

A Day Of Good Things!

Oooh, so many cool things going on today, I don’t know where to start!

Austin Wanderlust

First off, I bought my ticket to go to Wanderlust Austin over my birthday weekend. I’ll get to spend the entire weekend doing yoga, meditating, and even taking a trail run, along with eating healthy food and getting to jam out to great tunes. This will be the best birthday treat I’ve had in a long time! What’s even better, since I’ll be in Austin, I get to do yoga during the day then hang out with my amazing friend Trinity at night. Plus, I sent word to my cousin Amy to see if she might be able to make it. If she could, that would be a crazy good weekend!

mcchris_Lead

Secondly, I bought tickets to see mc chris next Thursday night! I’m super excited about that one, since I’ve somehow managed to miss every show he’s had in whatever city I was in over the last few years. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, don’t feel too bad. He’s a nerdcore rapper, comedian and voice actor with a pretty loyal following, but hasn’t really hit “mainstream” yet. I hope he never does, because he’s amazing. I first heard him rapping in Aqua Teen Hunger Force, then started really listening to the lyrics of his songs and fell in love – so many geeky references! His voice is really high, something that turns some people off, but it’s also one of the most interesting things about his sound. Anyway, I’m pretty psyched.

And then, after months of (ha) hemming and hawing, I bit the bullet and signed up with Stitch Fix. It’s probably a bad idea, but we’ll see. Basically, Stitch Fix is a personal styling service that takes your measurements and style preferences, then sends you a box of five hand-picked items of clothing, jewelry and/or accessories that you might like. You can try them on at home, then either buy the ones you like or send them all back. I kept seeing bloggers writing about their Stitch Fix packages, and since I have such trouble breaking out of the box, fashion-wise, it seemed like a fun thing to try. It’s not a subscription service or anything, so there’s no contract or commitment, other than the $20 you pay to have them send you a box (which can go towards any of the items in the box). So we’ll see. Have any of you guys tried Stitch Fix before?

Photography Fri…I mean…Sunday! Beach Vacation

Kind of funny that today’s Daily Post prompt would be to describe our world without a computer. Just a week ago, I arrived at a little place called Crystal Beach, on the Bolivar Peninsula of Texas. The address of my host’s beachhouse can’t be found on a GPS or Google Maps, and Internet is still so new in that little part of the world that I was advised to “just forget about it” for the duration of my trip. So for the most part, I did. I still had cell service and enough connectivity to do a little social media-ing, but other than that I just took a couple days to rest and recharge my batteries.

I spent a lot of time with my toes in the sand, just looking out over the horizon. My friends and I played Farkle, hung out on the beach, watched my friend Trin’s son play happily, and just took the time to enjoy being together in such a beautiful little spot. I didn’t miss my computer at all – in fact, the whole experience made me more resolved to find a way to only use this thing for good someday. No playing around, just working to make a difference, then logging off and living my life at the end of the day. A girl can dream, right?

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Photography Friday! July 4th Weekend Savannah & Charleston Road Trip

Last week I was too busy enjoying my vacation to stop and post for Photography Friday, but this week I’m making up for my absence! The Man and I went on a road trip from July 3rd through 7th, driving about 12 hours to Savannah, GA for the 4th, then on to Charleston, SC for the rest of the weekend, and finally back to NOLA. Here are some snapshots of our trip, plus a few assorted shots from home for a little lagniappe.

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Random wall from a Savannah alley.

Confiscated fake IDs on the "wall of shame" outside of a Savannah bar.

Confiscated fake IDs on the “wall of shame” outside of a Savannah bar.

Met up with two work friends (also on vacation) at this cool little Savannah bar.

Met up with two work friends (also on vacation) at this cool little Savannah bar.

Lovely live wreath spotted in Charleston.

Lovely live wreath spotted in Charleston.

Charleston's famed Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge.

Charleston’s famed Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. I took this photo while on a nighttime ghost tour – on a boat!

50,000 lb. Rodman Guns at Ft. Moultrie (Sullivan's Island, SC)

50,000 lb. Rodman Guns at Ft. Moultrie (Sullivan’s Island, SC)

WWII-era radio room, preserved at Ft. Moultrie (Sullivan's Island, SC)

WWII-era radio room, preserved at Ft. Moultrie (Sullivan’s Island, SC)

Me at the WWII-era lookout station on Ft. Moultrie (Sullivan's Island, SC)

Me at the WWII-era lookout station on Ft. Moultrie (Sullivan’s Island, SC)

Beach at Sullivan's Island, SC

Beach at Sullivan’s Island, SC

Playing around in a Charleston candy shop.

Playing around in a Charleston candy shop.

My new salt lamp, purchased at a Charleston mineral shop.

My new salt lamp, purchased at a Charleston mineral shop.

Spotted in New Orleans.

Spotted in New Orleans.

Just Dropping In To Say…

Times Square Musical Billboards by Anna Harris

This weekend on Broadway…

Hi everybody! Sorry for the radio silence, but I was gone for the weekend. Had a great (albeit short) little vacation to New York City, and spent three and a half days doing some intense sight seeing. I walked between 8 and 11 miles each day, got way too much sun, and had a ton of fun visiting the Empire State Building, Central Park, The Met, The Cloisters, Times Square, Madame Tussaud’s, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, South Street Seaport, and other stuff I know I’m forgetting right now.

Just wanted to drop in to let you know that I really appreciate all of the new likes, comments and follows – thanks so much for your support and the lovely responses to my tiny short story last week. I’ll be back in business here on Compass & Quill very soon, and posting my origami entries for The 30 Days Challenge (I’m behind, but a few pieces a day should help me catch up again).

Tonight I made a couple of new pieces, including a really cute modular wreath. I also watched the last three episodes of Game of Thrones; gotta admit that I was disappointed in the last episode. No spoilers, of course, but from everyone else’s non-spoiler comments about the episode, I expected something much more outrageous (or at least interesting) to happen. I’m a huge Brienne of Tarth fan, though, so any episode without her is lackluster, imo. At least Arya Stark made an appearance – she makes my GoT experience much more bearable on the less than great episodes.

It’s time to catch some shuteye, but I promise to have some vacation and origami photos up tomorrow. Night folks!

Vacation Archives – Day #7 (continued): More Assisi

Some of you might be wondering why it’s taken me so long to finish telling you guys about my amazing vacation. It’s hard to say this, but here it is – I lost a blog entry. Lost it. Zip, zero, gone, not coming back. Somehow I ended up erasing an entire day of my vacation, and since the only existing copy of my journal entry from that day was here, locked up on the backend of Compass & Quill, I will never have those exact memories from that afternoon again.

What really sucks about that (or maybe it’s a boon – you tell me) is that the writing I lost was a recap of the best day of my vacation. In all two weeks, my favorite day, the day I think back on, wish could have been much longer, the day that is sepia-toned in my mind, like some slow motion, driving-through-the-countryside scene from a heady emotional drama (you know, where sunlight glints off of waving blades of grass, and the heroine rides in passenger seat, gently fiddling with her hair or her sunglasses, and the camera goes in and out of focus in a way that both slightly irritates you and simultaneously breaks your heart?)…that was this day.

Naturally, you can see the kind of emotional turmoil I went through after finding that I’d essentially misplaced (forever) my memories. I felt like such a jerk. And I am. There’s no getting around it. But the show must go on, so here’s what I remember from the rest of the day…

The Franciscans don’t ask that you pay any fees to explore St. Francis’ birthplace and final resting place. However, there are little donation boxes everywhere, and with my heart overflowing with joy, just like Francis intended, I gave freely. I donated money for two long, slim, beeswax candles to be burned in prayer during one of the brothers’ daily services. I put change in boxes for the basilica’s upkeep, and for the brothers’ many missions for the poor across the world. I bought souvenirs – a lovely poster of St. Francis’ Peace Prayer, which contains one of my favorite quotations, a new medallion for my necklace of sacred baubles, and lots of little gifts for family. I bought The Man some anise candies that turned out to be the best gift of all – delicious!

When it came time to see where St. Francis was laid to rest, I was a little let down. It’s just a room, nothing too special. But I can’t say that I wasn’t touched. He’s buried with his four companions, the men who were his support in later life. We assume they were good friends, and I hope for his sake that they were, but this was long ago, and stories get twisted in the telling. Such is the way of the world. I’m doing it right now, whether I’d like to or not, by leaving out small details and remaining too long on things of little consequence. C’est la vie.

After exploring the basilica, I walked around the town. It’s a winding town, a quiet town, a friendly town. I met travelers all over, and took other peoples’ photos for them at every stop. It began to feel as though it was my tiny mission to make people happier by making sure they had commemorative snapshots. I didn’t ask anyone to take my picture, an oversight that still bugs me. I met a tour group of teens and their chaperones from Georgia, taking a tour of sacred European sites. After I took the group’s photo, they all gave me hugs and one woman handed me a lovely little St. Francis bookmark as a gift.

It was sometime after this that St. Francis started to make himself known for real in my life. I went to the ATM to get cash, and my card was declined. I realized that I had forgotten to tell my bank that I was heading to Europe, and since all the cards I had with me were from the same bank, I was essentially screwed. A short while later, I ran out of all the change on me. Luckily I’d already purchased a return ticket to Perugia, so getting home wasn’t a problem. I tried using a pay phone to call the out of US number on the back of my card, but the pay phone wouldn’t make the call, telling me that the number I dialed was “not allowed.” Instead, I gave up and spent the last hour in the city walking around, checking out old architecture, soaking in the atmosphere.

Finally I gave up and waited for the bus. As I waited, an older Japanese lady came to stand beside me. She had been on the bus to Assisi with me from Perugia, and I knew she spoke English, so I made some pleasantry about the weather to be polite. For some reason, something in her demeanor really made me like her immediately, and I tend to have very strong and accurate gut feelings, so I went with it. We ended up chatting for the next hour, sitting next to each other on the bus, sharing stories, life views, laughing, philosophizing. It was an amazing moment for me. At one point in our conversation I felt certain that she was a kind of angel, someone I was meant to talk to and learn from.

Her name was Ikuko, and she lived in California but was originally (and maybe still – I didn’t pry) from Japan. She spends a good deal of time travelling for pleasure and personal growth, and has quite a few friends in Italy, so she was in the middle of a three month vacation when we met. She asked if I was Catholic, and I said no, but that I felt drawn to St. Francis. I thought that she would maybe be confused, or brush me off in some way, but instead she nodded sagely and said that she believed we got what we needed from the Universe, that religion was just a piece of the puzzle, and an interchangeable one at that. Our conversation ran the gamut from religion (she had a genuine epiphany a few years ago, and went from having no religion to being a pretty devout Catholic) to coffee, and how to order an American coffee without offending your Italian waiter. Have you ever met someone that you just loved immediately? That’s how I felt during that bus ride. It was a ‘coming home’ feeling, and we’ve remained in touch. I plan to go out to California in the next year or so, and hope to visit her while I’m there.

The rest of the afternoon was nowhere near as pleasant as meeting Ikuko. My cards didn’t work, and as it turned out, no phone I tried would let me dial out to any of the credit card company’s numbers (multiple), including my hotel room phone, my cell phone, the front desk phone or any of the pay phones I tried outside. I’ve already recounted how horribly unhelpful the desk staff were at my hotel, so no need to go through that. Bottom line is that I cried buckets, but finally got through to the bank via Skype on my iPad – a free app that literally saved my life. Without Skype I would have been stranded in Perugia until someone could wire me cash, and given how irritatingly unfazed the Italians I met were when it came to my financial crisis, I’m not sure that I could have gotten money for at least a couple of days. But oh well, it’s over. I’ll know better next time.

After getting the money sorted out, I wandered the streets of Perugia, enjoying the sights and sounds one last time. I had dinner at my hotel – OK, but not my best decision ever. The only great thing about it was having very old fashioned service, complete with a rolling cart for food and beverage delivery, and waiters with gloves and little towels thrown over their arms. It was out in the courtyard of the hotel, and with the sounds from the street echoing in, and the whole place lit in a soft yellow glow, it was a little magical.

The only thing left for my evening after dinner was to write in my journal, check in with Facebook, and get some gelato and an espresso like a proper Italian. I headed back to the gelato spot that I’d found the night before, this time ordering sweet cream and hazelnut. The shop owner and the counter guy chit chatted with me a bit this time, asking where I was from and how long I planned to stay. Their service and friendliness was impeccable, something I treasured about staying in that area of the city. They even brought me out a special cone-holder so that I could type on my iPad without having to hold the gelato cone! The gelato place had all of these tiny outdoor tables, and there’s something magical about sitting outdoors at 11pm, eating gelato and drinking an espresso, listening to a town that’s still going just as strong as during the daylight hours, hearing snippets of music and laughter…I’m getting teary-eyed now.

 

 

Vacation Archives – Day #6: Perugia

This is an entry from the Vacation Archives, a somewhat tardy report of my adventures in Croatia and Italy. On June 5th, 2012, I travelled from Venice to Perugia, where I had gone out of my way to book a room at a century-old luxury hotel. Hmmm.

So much for specifically paying for a hotel with wifi. I’m in Perugia now, in a hotel room that smells inexplicably of bacon and keeps dropping the internet signal. The hotel is old and creepy. I want to say that it’s grand, and it definitely has some fancy touches, like faux-finished marcasite tables in my room, plus more furniture than I know what to do with. There’s a mini bar stocked to the gills with liquor, and I’m drinking a glass of champagne as I type. Weirdly for a mini bar, the prices are what you’d see on a menu anywhere. Overall, though, if it weren’t for the excellent location, I’d be disappointed in spending so much per night to stay here. Luckily there’s a great gelato place next door that has free wifi and good cappuccinos, so I can at least catch up on current events.

The doorway to my creepy hotel room.

I got in this afternoon around 2:45pm, and after a short confusion, found my way from the train station to the nearby mini metro station. Before my trip, I was led to believe that the mini metro was a train like any other. I thought that mini referred to the route, but instead it refers to the train (and maybe the route, too). There are only about eight stops, and the “train” is more like a pod, the length of a bus or maybe even a large van. There are eight seats and plenty of standing room, and for most of the trip up the mountain to historic town center, the car is on a cable system that runs from underneath. Later the car runs on tracks only. I’m no engineer, so probably not explaining it well, but the entire process was fascinating to me, not to mention a quick and seamless journey that would have been at least 45 minutes’ walk.

The weird thing about the train station is that there were no maps. I had no clue where I was going. Even once I found the mini metro, the only map there was topographical, and there was no explanation of what stop went where! I ended up just taking the metro to the last stop and hoping for the best, and had I turned right instead of left, I would have been three minutes from my hotel. Instead, I of course wandered around, got lost, finally found a newsstand that sold maps, couldn’t read it, got lost again, then eventually figured it out and got to where I was going. It’s difficult not knowing a place, then trying to find where you’re going based on street names when street names are seldom marked. I ended up seeing the cathedral of San Lorenzo and finding my way from there.

The Cathedral of San Lorenzo, Perugia

After dropping my bags, I walked about a bit, looked into every shop window, and visited the cathedral. It was gorgeous. I especially liked the famous Madonna painting there. I decided not to photograph her sweet face, as she seemed too important for that. She’s positioned on a column, and all around the rest of the column up to about 30 feet high, there are glassed-in shadow boxes filled with silver heart medallions, most bearing applied gold or silver initials. Some of the hearts are in their own frames, with velvet or lace decorations. The church didn’t have an explanation for this, but I plan to find out. I’m assuming that they’re like Milagros.

Milagros surrounding the beautiful Madonna della Grazie.

Other parts of the church were also lovely, including an amazing stained glass window of a white bearded prophet in one of the side chapels. Holy relics of Pope Innocent IV are interred in the cathedral, as well as a white onyx ring that supposedly was Mary’s wedding ring. I didn’t see the ring in the church, but plan to go to the church museum before leaving, and hope that it’s there.

Detail from the exterior of San Lorenzo Cathedral

The crowd at San Lorenzo

In my wandering, I also came across the Etruscan arch, though I had no idea at the time that was what I was seeing. It’s interesting that I still was in awe of the huge, obviously old structure. It is massive, and the very picture of masculine strength. I felt very small beside it, so can’t even imagine the effect it had on its contemporaries.

The Etruscan Arch

I was tired and the museums had all closed, so i ended up taking a nap from 5:30 til 9:30, then woke up and walked around. Much like New Orleans, the big Italian cities don’t seem to have a bedtime. Here the college students were out in the square, sitting on the steps of the cathedral like a humongous tour group, shouting happily in the streets. People had beers, but more had gelato or coffee, and many were talking sans drinks. I found it mystifying, having basically grown up in a town where people are plastered by midnight. Eventually I heeded the call of gelato, and enjoyed a cone with two scoops. I ordered pistachio, but received chocolate and some kind of butter cream. The lady was so nice that I didn’t bother to correct her, also thinking that maybe I was being directed by the universe to try something other than pistachio for once 🙂

Again, the shop windows were calling my name. I’m going to do some serious shopping tomorrow night. I want a pretty pair of Italian shoes, and I spied a tshirt, watch, and purse that were all amazing.

My champagne is caput, and I need to catch some sleep and get up early tomorrow for my trip to Assisi. I can’t believe I’m going to see St. Francis; I’m beyond excited. This is almost as cool as my trip to Chartres. I hope it feels as holy and relevant as that place did. I tried finding bus info tonight with no luck. At least I know where to catch the bus, so gonna go there early and see what I can find out. I also want to see the Etruscan well, the archaeology museum, the cathedral museum, the national gallery, and theres a house museum I saw a sign for that looks awesome, too. Hopefully I can get to Assisi early, then get back here by afternoon. If not, guess I’ll just have to come back next year!